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Washington Outlook Archive

Textile Association Challenges Ruling On Sleeping Bags

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Is a sleeping bag a textile product?

The Obama administration says it isn't, but textile manufacturers say it is.

The controversy stems from the release by the U.S. Trade Representative of the latest Generalized System of Preferences Review, in which the government denied a petition from Exxel Outdoors, a manufacturer of sleeping bags, to have them classified as textile products. The decision will allow overseas manufacturers to avoid a 9-percent tariff on a wide range of products, including sleeping bags, that are not classified as textile products.  Congress created the Generalized System of Tariff Preferences (GSP) in the Trade Act of 1974 to help developing countries expand their economies by allowing certain products into the United States tariff-free. However, textile and apparel products have been excluded from the preferential treatment because of their import sensitivity and because developing countries often have been significant exporters of those products.

The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC) is up in arms over the decision, claiming it fails to recognize that sleeping bags are textile products and refuses to recognize the economic threat to U.S. manufacturers of continuing to provide duty-free treatment to sleeping bags from developing countries.

Saying he is "incredibly disappointed" with the decision, AMTAC Executive Director Auggie Tantillo pointed out that textile components including the fiber fill, outer-shell fabric and sewing thread account for 96 percent of the weight and 90 percent of the value of a sleeping bag. He also said the case gave the Obama administration an opportunity to create American jobs, but instead favors foreign manufacturers. Tantillo called on President Barack Obama to reconsider his decision and "properly designate" sleeping bags as textiles.

July 6, 2010